Testing for rank is a time honored martial arts tradition. Even though Counterpoint Tactical System is a modern martial art, we still practice rank testing. It is a way for CTS founder Zach Whitson to recognize a student’s progress. To pass a belt test, the student has to have sufficient skill at the curriculum to move on to the more advanced material. For us in the Midwest, belt testing comes at the end of the seminar. Read part one of the seminar summary here.
Master Whitson and Mike Miller – CTS first degree black belt – sat as the testing board. Three of us stood in front of the board that day to attempt the test. Ryan Zimmerman of STL Counterpoint tested for green belt in Cacoy Doce Pares, Alec Helwig of Springfield FMA tested for second class brown belt in CTS, and I tried for first class brown belt in CTS. Usually, Master Whitson conducts the tests simultaneously but was unable to for this seminar. Besides myself, the only other seminar attendee that could work with Ryan on the CDP material was Mike. In CTS, we learn about 90% of the Cacoy Doce Pares curriculum during red belt. Ryan wanted to round out his training with the other 10%, and Mike is studying the CDP curriculum as well. Next, Alec and I were testing over material that only Alec, Mike, and me had trained. I could help Alec with his test, but other than holding pads and sparring, Alec couldn’t help me. The result was that we all tested sequentially.
Ryan went first. The Cacoy Doce Pares green belt material adds double stick conditioning from open chamber with the CTS red belt material. Ryan passed his red belt test back in May of this year with ease. Double stick pengke-pengke drills were the new factor for Ryan in this test. He was nervous about them earlier in the day, and we went through them beforehand to work out the jitters. When it came time to hit double stick in front of Master Whitson, the nerves were gone. Ryan and Mike hit the patterns like it was just another class. I watched the pengke-pengke and then went back to preparing for my test. At the end of the curriculum demonstrations, Ryan had to spar Mike, Alec, and me. He sparred three FMA players who have years more experience than him and did very well. I was incredibly proud to see how much he’s progressed. Ryan passed.
Alec was second. He started by showing the pakal knife twelve attacks. Then, I fed empty hands versus knife level two to Alec. He showed all the taps, some striking, and a few disarms. Alec sailed through it. Empty hands versus pakal involves subtly and sensitivity. Master Whitson got up and fed to experience Alec’s movements. For the third block of the curriculum, Alec showed Pekiti Largo. I fed Alec this huge block of material. In CTS, just because you’ve passed the test, you cannot rest on your laurels. Master Whitson may call on you to assist in the test, and to assist properly, you need to understand the material. This is where teaching the art is so valuable. I haven’t taught the Pekiti largo curriculum, but I tested it just last year and trained it with Alec earlier this summer along with the seminar’s morning session. My goal was to not screw it up for Alec. He looked good with the material. Alec’s studies and training were apparent. He did a fantastic job, and there was no doubt that he passed his test. Sparring was postponed until after my test to allow me to test without being exhausted.
My test covered the first class brown belt curriculum. Mike fed the kenpo counterpoint empty hands versus knife drill. During the final part of the drill, I took notes where polish is needed. There is room for improvement, and I look forward to playing more with it in the future. Next was panantukan level two. On the curriculum sheet, Master Whitson listed some combinations to know for the test. I shadow-boxed the combinations and looked silly even though I could do the combinations. I just look silly when I shadowbox. I’m okay with that. We moved from shadowboxing to doing some of the offensive combos and the defensive combinations with focus mitts. Alec held the mitts for me. I looked much better. The difference was enough that Master Whitson even commented on it. Part of looking good on the mitts is having a good partner. Alec and I stepped slowly through each striking pattern once or twice before speeding up. Since he was so good at holding the pads, I was able to relax and just hit the combos. Thanks to Alec for his skills. He made me look good. Then, for the final block of the curriculum, I had to show kenpo counterpoint level two (KCP2), also known as the assault set. Over the past twelve months, I spent most of my training time focusing on this set.
When I started learning KCP2, it seemed like a huge block of curriculum. There are sixteen sets of movements. KCP1 is a hubud-like drill where the offense and defense flow back and forth between the practitioners; it is a loop that could go on forever if no one chooses to end it. KCP2 has a base drill in it and also contains a number of counters within it, but the spirit of this curriculum is contained in its other name – assaulting. The purpose of this material is to end the fight quickly. I don’t remember who exactly came up with this analogy – possibly Mike Miller, but someone said that KCP1 is a race track on which we keep going around and around; whereas KCP2 are the exit ramps off the track. I was a bit nervous initially learning it. As usual, when I began to understand the material, it shrunk. It contracted in upon itself so that I can get through the whole curriculum very quickly. The sixteen movements all fit together now. KCP2 is much like the whole system of CTS. It starts out looking huge and complex until you begin to understand it or have a lot of experience in it. Then you begin to see that it’s small. It’s movement and rules, tactics and concepts. Even though CTS and KCP2 contract down into a small system, the possibilities become endless. By passing the test, I’ve demonstrated the minimum required knowledge to begin to explore the drill on my own. With each new block of curriculum that I learn in Counterpoint Tactical System, I learn how much more I have to explore. I passed the demonstration portion, but the test was not over. The final part of the first brown test is panantukan sparring.
Marshall Horton of Springfield FMA took all of the test pictures. He did a phenomenal job. I really appreciate the wonderful pictures that he took. Be sure to come back for part three – sparring – later this week.